So ~Your Problem Is … ??

Being an older guy, I’ve seen a few linguistic peculiarities come and go. Some of them sort of made sense, but others make me wonder. Conversational peculiarities come and go, but there’s one in particular that intrigues me because it has a Biblical connection. Have you noticed how often people tend to begin a conversation, or answer a question, introduce a point, or begin a story with the word, “So”? This handy little word is supposed to be a connecting conjunction, a word that links what’s about to be said with something that preceded it. But these days, it’s randomly and indiscriminately thrown out with no connection intended at all. “So” has effectively become an acceptable way to introduce a comment with no backfill connection, answer a question that hasn’t been asked, or begin a story with no lead-in. 

A Flexible Word ~
Whatever your opinion might be about the current culture’s indiscriminate use of the word, “so”, it’s interesting to notice that the Gospel writers used it, too. Well, actually they used the Greek equivalent, of course, but the term they used is accurately translated “so” in many of our English Bibles. Theso.1 passage that garners my attention today includes a familiar example. In this case, the Gospel writer’s use of it actually does make a connection. It provides a link between a profound, life-changing question Jesus asked and the circumstances leading up to it. But since the word has become so flexible now, we’ll look at using it to draw us into the episode and to prompt us to consider the more personal implications. 

The event we’re referring to began with Jesus heading out of Jericho on His way to Jerusalem and His destined appointment with the cross. He was accompanied by His disciples and an assortment of curious onlookers. Crowds were always gathering around this revolutionary young Rabbi to hear what He might say and maybe even witness one of His miracles. This particular day would be one they would never forget — and neither would a blind man named Bartimaeus, who happened to be one of the beggars sitting by the road. 

Not a Fantasy ~
Bartimaeus had heard the stories about the incredible miracles Jesus had performed. It was widely reported that He had the power to heal beyond anything anyone had ever imagined. But there was something else that set Him apart from the religious leaders of His day. He displayed unprecedented So.2compassion toward the outcasts. He actually cared about the poor, the sick, the lame, and the afflicted. People told of lepers being cleansed, demons being expelled, hearing and speech being restored, and all kinds of debilitating diseases being instantly healed. They said that He had even restored sight to the blind. But Galilee, where most of those miracles were done, was a long way from Bartimaeus’ home in Jericho. Going there to search for Him would have involved a challenging journey even for those who weren’t blind. For Bartimaeus, finding Him would have been just another fantasy that could never come true. But on this day, unimaginable things were about to unfold. 

Imagine what it must have been like for a man like Bartimaeus to hear that this man with the incredible power of God was not in some far off, inaccessible place. He was actually close by and heading in his direction. Hope he had never dared to allow himself to feel suddenly became irresistible.

Only One Option ~
Unable to accurately determine where Jesus was, Bartimaeus did the only thing he could do. He began to continuously shout for mercy in an attempt to get Jesus to notice him. The folks around him found his incessant yelling to be irritating. We can imagine comments like, “Will you please shut up! Jesus may say something controversial, and we don’t want to miss it!” Bartimaeus was not to be deterred and yelled even louder. His persistence paid off, and soon the Son of God noticed him and invited him to a one-on-one meeting. Here’s where Mark inserts that little connective conjunction that’s so popular in our day: 

So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you? (Mark 10:51 NKJV)

If Mark was using “so” to connect Jesus’ question to something, it’s reasonable to look back and see what preceded it. Here’s how Mark described the lead-in to the meeting with Jesus. 

Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.” And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. (Mark 10:46–50 NKJV)

Bartimaeus’ request had plenty of volume, but not much definition. It was clear that he wanted something from Jesus, but exactly what he was asking for was a bit vague. The “mercy” he wasSo.3 pleading for can take a lot of different forms. Of course, Jesus knew what Bartimaeus meant when he said, “Have mercy on me”, but He wanted him to say it out loudly so that everyone around him could hear it. For a blind man, the question wasn’t hard to answer. Blindness was the problem and sight was the solution. But the question we must ask now is this … Would it be as simple if we put ourselves in the story?  

A Deeper Bondage ~
Bartimaeus had a condition that was impossible to hide, but it sentenced him to a deeper bondage that the crowd couldn’t see. Blindness kept him incarcerated in a windowless prison of depressing darkness. It forbade feeling the warmth of a smile on the face of a loved one. It denied him the wonder of watching the endless parade of color and beauty in the world around him. Every day, blindness reminded him of things he couldn’t do, places he couldn’t go, experiences he could never have, goals he could never achieve. The bondage of his affliction went deeper than the external challenges he faced.

There are many more lessons in this episode than we can begin to address, but, in this moment, a couple of observations seem to stand out. First, Bartimaeus lived every day of his life being reminded of things he couldn’t do, obstacles he couldn’t overcome, goals he couldn’t reach, and experiences he couldn’t have. And he was neither the first nor the last to know what that bondage is like. He’s not the only one whose desperate cries for God’s attention haven’t been welcomed by onlookers. And like that day in Jericho, the real problems we face still aren’t recognized by the crowd . . . and neither is the solution. 

Time for Impossible Things ~
The fact that someone is neither physically blind, nor reduced to begging on the street, doesn’t mean they’re free. Many feel bound in darkness that no one knows about and shackled with chains hidden from view. We’re living in a time when the need to see God do impossible things on every level has never been greater. The crowd may not like the noise we make to get God’s personal attention, but shutting up to please the crowd will only ensure that our suffering will continue. Jesus still wants a one-on-one meeting with each of us, and He has a deeply personal question to ask. It’s simply, What do you want me to do for you? 

“So” … Exposing our most insoluble problems, our most unwinnable battles, and the chains we’ve never been able to break isn’t easy — but neither is living in this darkness.


“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below.  Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .

    • “Blind Bartimaeus isn’t the only one whose desperate cries for God’s attention haven’t been welcomed by onlookers. Like that day in Jericho, the real problems we face still aren’t recognized by the crowd . . . and neither is the solution.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
    • “The fact that someone is neither physically blind, nor reduced to begging on the street, doesn’t mean they’re free. Many feel bound in darkness that no one knows about and shackled with chains that are hidden from view.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
    • “The need to see God do impossible things on every level has never been greater. The crowd may not like the noise we make to get God’s personal attention, but shutting up to please them will only ensure that our suffering will continue.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
    • “Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Exposing our most insoluble problems, our most unwinnable battles, and the chains we’ve never been able to break isn’t easy — but neither is living in this darkness.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet) 

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© 2022 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S.  All rights reserved.

 

About Ron Gallagher, Ed.S

Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher, Humorist, Satirist, Blogger ... "Right Side Up Thinking ~ In an Upside Down World" For Ron's full bio, go to GallaghersPen.com/about/
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4 Responses to So ~Your Problem Is … ??

  1. JD Wininger says:

    You had me from the start with this one. It’s difficult to type because what I want to do is run around the house and shout “HALLEHLUJAH” at the top of my voice. Of course, it’s almost 4am and I just got Ms. Diane back to bed. I’ll therefore refrain, for a while. 🙂 Full of encouragement and inspiration, you post truly spoke to me this morning. As I’m going through what I’ve been calling my “Bartimaeus Season”, where I’m fighting to save my vision, it seems like a losing battle. I have found myself asking, “What do I really want God to do?” Just as surprising, I’m finding my answers are changing as my eyesight is getting worse. Initially, my prayers were that God arrest what this prescribed medicine had inadvertently done and restore my vision so I could see clearly again. In time, as the intra-ocular injections continued and my eyes worsened, I realized that the blindness my trusted ophthalmologist hinted at could become a reality. As my eyesight got worse, I attempted to argue with God, even to the point of anger. “How could a God who called me to write take my sight from me? That ain’t right! How could You do this God? What did I do, or not do, to cause this?”

    In the darkness of my despair, I found the answers, in His light. As I felt God saying, “The problem is dear child, that you’re wanting to rely upon the physical to accomplish what I want you to do in the spiritual. Man doesn’t need eyesight to see, and man doesn’t need hearing to hear. Haven’t you learned that yet?” As is often the case, it’s in the breaking that we remove the barriers of learning we erect with our supposed logical mind. We sometimes forget that God defies all logic and reasoning, as His ways are higher than ours. In time, I found my prayers for healing changing from “please restore my vision” to “please help me see”. Like Bartimaeus, I don’t need working retinal tissue to see what God needs me to see. What I needed to see is that as His child, I need to trust Him to do what He has always done in my life, and that’s provide for me. Talent, family, career, a loving wife, a life surrounded by the beauty of His natural world. God has always provided me with what He knew I needed to thrive and flourish. All I’ve needed all along is to trust Him.

    Now, instead of worrying if I’ll lose my sight or not, I find myself anticipating what is coming next. I no longer worry how will I (the primary driver) get my wife to medical appointments or us to church and shopping. How will I be able to care for the livestock? How am I going to continue writing? It’s what I do; that’s who I am. All of these worries, concerns, and questions are worldly and straight from the pit of hell. I realize that if I truly trust God, then I must trust Him in all aspects of my life and surrender all control to Him. Oh, it doesn’t stop the questions, at least not yet, and I won’t stop fighting to save my remaining vision, but it does bring peace by knowing “God’s got this”. All I have to do is go along for the ride and keep flapping my gums so that others might know what He can do in their surrendered lives.

    Oh, how you’ve encouraged me today my friend. Thank you for reminding me of what I really want from Jesus. While He’s long ago given me everything I need, my only want these days is to continue to walk in faith with Him. God’s blessings Mr. Ron. best to you and your Ms. Diane.

    Like

    • I’m not sure what to call this piece, J.D., but as I read your response/testimony/devotional/post-worthy words, my heart felt like it was on a roller coaster. It moved from exhilarating spiritual hills, to scary, depressing valleys, to pressure packed emotional curves, to dark, frightening tunnels. But, at the end of the ride, as you characteristically do, you eventually brought us out into the bright sunlight and left us praising God for His enduring, inerrant, unshakeable, soul-securing, and life-sustaining Truth. Diane and I felt your heart again today, my friend, and we are richer for it. We wish, of course, that we could do something to fix all of it, but that would be insulting to the One who owns that territory, and who, as you said, has it all in His capable, compassionate, nail-scarred hands.

      Oh, and if, by the time your Diane gets well enough for us to drop in to say “Hi” and take you guys out for dinner, you’re having a day when my face looks a little out of focus, just put that part of it in the category of those small blessings that God often slips in among the challenges.

      Obviously, not all of the prayers we pray could be considered “fervent”. Sometimes getting to that point demands an intense desire to lift a burden that’s impossible for us lift on our own, and that’s as it should be. For what it’s worth, you and Mrs. Diane are considered distant next of kin around the Gallagher compound and you can be assured that there’s some fervency going on up here in TN when we go before God on behalf of the two of you and rest of the Cross-Dubya family.

      Like

      • JD Wininger says:

        “Out for dinner?” I fear your Ms. Diane needs to take you to have your head examined old friend, cause “your mind has done took a turn.” When we get to visit in person, it’s nothing but the best. First, we’ll start with Sugo Toscano (only company is the only excuse I get for making it), followed by days of filet mignon, t-bones, ribeyes, brisket, etc., all straight from our Cross-Dubya. You can’t tell I’m a carnivore can you? You and your Mrs. have long been considered part of our clan here too sir, and oh how I’ll rejoice when God sees fit to bring us together. This world or the next, I can’t wait to sit together and share stories, laughter, and friendship my brother!

        Like

      • OK… you gotta ease up with the culinary stuff Brother. The banquet sounded incredible, but I already gained 3 pounds just reading your note. I’m confident that we’ll plug in some kind of in person thing one of these days, but if the Lord decides to make us wait until we’re together over there, well… He’ll just have make space in His schedule to join us and share the table–or better yet, we’ll just do it at His place :).

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